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Anastasiades: Claims in Pandora Papers unfounded and misleading

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President Nicos Anastasiades

President Nicos Anastasiades rejected anew suggestions Wednesday that he was involved in setting shell companies abroad for personal enrichment after leaked documents, dubbed the Pandora Papers, implicated the law firm bearing his name and another law practice.

The president was responding to the House ethics committee, which has been discussing the papers in light of Cyprus’ involvement in alleged money laundering activities.

In a lengthy statement submitted by the director of the president’s office Petros Demetriou, Anastasiades described the claims against him as unfounded and misleading.

According to the statement, the 12m leaked documents covering the period between 1970 and 2020 concerned more than 330 politicians and state officials from 100 countries, including 35 sitting state leaders or governments.

The allegations concern involvement in the creation of shell companies, foundations, and trust funds with the aim of acquiring wealth, evade and avoid taxes, and money laundering.

Anastasiades’ name is not even mentioned once, the statement said, nor is it connected with the alleged crimes attributed to the officials.

The statement goes on to quote the findings of the BBC and The Guardian, which refer to the law firm bearing his name.

“We have revelations about the president of Cyprus, not revelations that concern him personally regarding concealment of his offshore activities, but proof that his law firm has helped clients hide theirs,” the statement said, quoting the BBC.

The broadcaster however, did describe Anastasiades as the “Offshore President”.

Similarly, The Guardian said the claim was not that Anastasiades was involved in the firm’s activities.

But it said the response raised questions about the president’s wisdom in allowing a legal firm, over which he apparently had neither oversight nor control, to operate under his name while he served as a prominent politician.

The statement said that immediately after his election in 2013 and before assuming office, he had transferred all his shares (60 per cent) to his daughters.

Since, 1997, when he was elected leader of Disy, his participation in the business of the firm was zero.

According to the Guardian report, a Panamanian offshore company broker, Alcogal, complained that the Cypriot law firm Nicos Chr. Anastasiades & Partners had claimed to it that four of the offshore companies it was managing were beneficially owned by its staff.

However, in the report it filed to financial regulators in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) on June 8, 2015, it said it had come to believe it had been misled, and it now believed the true owner was the Russian businessman Leonid Lebedev.

Contacted by the Guardian and the BBC, Anastasiades & Partners strongly denied filing false information to the broker.Lebedev fled Russia in 2015 after being accused of failing to declare his assets. He denies the allegations and has since become a Hollywood film producer.

The Guardian notes that both the Cypriot law firm and its founder have previously had separate dealings with Lebedev. The law firm is understood to have advised the Russian on procuring Cypriot citizenship via the island’s citizenship by investment scheme, it said.

The citizenship was granted in 2011.

A resolution by the European Parliament called for an in-depth investigation by member states into politicians whose names appear in the Pandora Papers, with the draft specifically mentioning Anastasiades and other presidents and former political leaders.

It said that the Parliament “deplores the fact that a number of politicians, including EU high-level decision-makers, have also featured in the Pandora Papers, and calls on the authorities of the member states involved to carry out appropriate investigations into any wrongdoing”.

It “deplores, in particular”, the fact that politicians such as Andrej Babis, the prime minister of Czechia, and Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, who both sit on the European Council, in addition to Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch minister of finance, and also Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, former British prime minister Tony Blair, Milo Dakahovic, the president of Montenegro, and former Maltese minister and former EU commissioner John Dalli, “have all been mentioned in the Pandora Papers with reported links with offshore dealings”.

In the statement, the president expressed indignation over the resolution, suggesting other expediencies were at play.

He said it was the first time an EU Parliament resolution included specific references and questioned why out of the 35 leaders or the 330 state officials allegedly implicated, only seven were singled out.

“How unacceptable is it to assign responsibility or equate the president of Cyprus with those allegedly involved in offshore activities because the law firm veering his name, from which he departed in 2013, represented or represents a Russian senator?”

The statement went on to say that Lebedev had not faced any charges until 2015 when he resigned from the Russian senate.

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